News Update :: Tuesday, August 29, 2006

News

Leaked AOL Data Create Dilemma for Academic Researchers

The New York Times reported last week that when AOL researchers released three months’ worth of users’ query logs to the academic community, many researchers were torn between their desire for useful data and dismay about violating the privacy of the users.

Jon Kleinberg, a professor of computer science at Cornell University, downloaded the data right away, according to the Times. But when a firestorm over privacy breaches erupted, he decided against using them.

 ”Now it’s sitting there, in cold storage,” Kleinberg told the Times. “The number of things it reveals about individual people seems much too much. In general, you don’t want to do research on tainted data.”

William Cohen, an associate research professor in the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University, told the Times that the AOL query logs could be invaluable for researchers working in the field of personalization. Cohen said that although he might end up doing some research on the data set sometime in the future, “the privacy issues are something I’d have to think through very carefully.”

It is one of the frustrations of being an academic researcher in a world that has grown highly commercial, the Times reported. Data are everywhere, but there is very little for university researchers to work with. Raw data about people’s online behavior – the subject for many an academic researcher – remain locked up inside large companies, accessible only to a subset of corporate researchers.

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IBM Project Spurs Coursework in Assistive Software Tech

IBM started a program to equip computer science majors with the technical skills to develop or adapt software for people with disabilities, the aging population, and non-native language speakers so that they can more easily use the Web and electronic office documents.

As part of the project, IBM posted a Web-based lecture that teaches programming techniques to make electronic documents and the Web more accessible. The firm hopes professors who lead computer science courses will incorporate the material into their curricula. To generate interest, IBM also launched a contest for students to propose and design open source software for people with disabilities.

To qualify, entries must be based on a new international standard, called the OpenDocument Format (ODF). Familiarity with ODF will be increasingly important, as the format will be required by 50 percent of governments and 20 percent of commercial organizations by 2010.

“While there are many courses on programming skills, few, if any, lectures are devoted to encouraging students to consider the needs of computer users with sight, hearing, or mobility disabilities when they write software code,” said Wayne Dick, chair of the computer engineering and computer science department at the University of California State Long Beach. He said the project could help “computer sciences majors differentiate themselves in the job market, and give the students the satisfaction of helping others and solving challenges.”

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Southern Illinois U. Boosts Cell Capacity for "Move-In" Day

Cellular service provider Verizon boasted that it boosted its network capacity by more than 50 percent to accommodate “move-in” day at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale on Aug. 18. To do so, the firm activated a temporary cell site and upgraded its permanent area cell sites that provide network service to the college campus, home to some 20,000 students during the school year.

The temporary cell site, also known as a COLT (Cell on Light Truck), is a fully functional mobile cell site that enhances wireless capacity in a given area. Verizon Wireless has placed its COLT on campus near the entrance to the school’s new softball stadium.

“Each year we experience a substantial surge in network activity on the campus during move-in day,” said Mark Crumpton, president of Verizon’s Kansas/Missouri/Southern Illinois region. “Based on our customers’ year-over-year calling patterns, we anticipate that college students and their families will be relying more heavily on their wireless handsets to keep in touch as parents help students get settled on campus. Our network is prepared to handle the expected increased activity.”

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Rensselaer Researchers Aim To Close 'Green Gap' in LEDs

A research team from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute received $1.8 million in federal funding to improve the energy efficiency of green light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The project could help close the “green gap” in LED technology and ultimately lead to the replacement of incandescent and fluorescent lamps in general lighting applications.

The team, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solid-State Lighting Program, wants to double or triple the power output of green LEDs in three years. “Making lighting more efficient is one of the biggest challenges we face,” says Christian Wetzel, an associate professor of physics at Rensselaer. “Substantial reductions in the nation’s dependence on primary energy imports will be possible once highly efficient solid-state light sources replace wasteful incandescent and fluorescent lighting.”

Wetzel will be leading a team of scientists and engineers attempting to help meet the aggressive performance targets laid out in the D'E’s solid-state lighting accelerated roadmap. It calls for the development of advanced solid-state lighting technologies by 2025. These would be much more energy efficient, longer lasting, and cost competitive to conventional lighting technologies.

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Hong Kong U. Duo Develops Voice Chat Language Tool

Researchers at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have developed new software to support language instruction that also holds promise for the easy introduction of voice into any online classes. Gong, developed by David Rossiter and Gibson Lam, is a Java-based, client server program that supports the creation of voice-based message boards and forums. The client enables users to index recordings to text so viewers can jump to specific parts of the message. Users can also edit a message directly in the client to remove unwanted pauses and silences, as well as create asynchronous audio chat sessions.

Scott Leslie, an educational technology researcher and manager of the BCcampus Learning Resources Centre, an open content repository, said the software was, “well worth a look for language teachers or for anyone wanting to incorporate voice recording into their online classes for free.”

For more information, click here.

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